Monkey on my Belt

monkey beltBy Michael Morse

He wasn’t always an alcoholic, he said, eyes downcast, voice barely audible. He went on, telling us of a childhood spent in foster homes and orphanages due to his birth parent’s inability to provide proper care for him and his twin siblings.

“Back in the late 50s and early 60s foster parents were more interested in the check than the child,” he said, without any resentment. “I spent a lot of my childhood kneeling on clothespins in a corner, the backs of my thighs red and covered with welts.”

I listened, mesmerized. He went on to tell of a life that spiraled out of control as the years added up, leading him to a stint in the Air Force in 1972 and marriage shortly thereafter. He spared me the details, saying only that he slowly but steadily had lost all control over his ability to handle alcohol.

“If my wife left me today, she would have every reason to do so,” he said. “I wouldn’t blame her.”

On Christmas, 2010 he sat in his recliner, alone, his family gone for the day, his body full of Bacardi and his mind full of thoughts of ending it all.

“I had lost all hope. There was nothing. My wife, my daughter, my granddaughter were all having Christmas dinner with her family, the very people who had taken me in, and treated me with love and dignity. I repaid them by drinking. I had ruined another Christmas with my behavior. I wanted to die.”

The drink didn’t kill him though; he drank as much and as quickly as he could, trying to bring on acute alcohol poisoning. He failed at that, too. When his family came home and found him he was unconscious and unable to be woken up. In desperation they called 911…


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